Bahrain Tells Women to Stay Away From Mosques

by June 14, 2015 4:00 am

bahrain-ap-crop_displayWomen in Bahrain have been banned from attending prayer at their mosques after the second Islamic State (IS) attack in Saudi Arabia within a month. But wait, you might be wondering, why would women in Bahrain be penalized for something a terrorist organization did in another country? Well, apparently one of the suicide bombers disguised himself as a woman before detonating his explosives. Because Bahrain also feels vulnerable, they have now commanded women to stay away from their place of worship.  The Bahraini government has stated this measure is meant to protect all citizens of the country, including women. They also say that because women’s clothing makes them hard to “check” that it’s just easier for them to avoid prayers. This new rule, which is being enforced by Chairman Shaikh Mohsen Al Asfoor, is curious for a number of reasons.

First, only one suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia dressed as a woman. The other bomber, who was far more successful with his mission (killing 21 rather than 3) dressed in normal male clothes. So why not ban both men and women? In addition, the Islamic State is well known for their attacks on anyone who deviates from their severe interpretation of Islam. Yet Christian women have not been stopped from worshiping in the nation’s churches. This rule only extends to Muslim women.  

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The nation’s religious scholars have given the green light to the ban, saying, “The problem is that these radical men disguise themselves as women by wearing abayas as no one will check them and blow themselves up in the mosques. I will speak to other Sunni clerics to encourage women to pray at home and not in mosques until the situation improves.”  

Blaming or punishing women for culturally mandated clothing being a ‘danger’ is at best an ineffective deterrent. Not only does the danger of a terrorist attack never fully go away, but banning women violates major religious and human rights tenets.  

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In Islam, a woman is absolutely allowed to visit a mosque, and to deny someone their right to visit a place of worship is unlawful within Islam. “Who is more unjust than the one who prevents (people) from the Mosques of Allah” is clearly written in 2:114 of the Qur’an. Further phraseology both in the Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) are extremely clear about a woman’s right to visit the mosque, all concluding that it is unlawful for a man to prevent a woman from attending her house of worship.  

There is one Hadith, commonly cited by sexists within the Muslim world, which tells of the Prophet saying that, “It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house.” However, this “saying” was made directly in response to a woman with a newborn asking if she’d get the same amount of “blessings” from praying at home as she would when going to the mosque. Within context, it seems more of an extension for stay at home mothers, rather than a condemnation of women going out to pray.  

Depriving women of their right to worship is also contradictory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The banning of women from the mosque in Bahrain likely won’t last long. Yet for many Muslim women, who often see the government infringe on their personal and religious rights under the guise of ‘protection,’ it’s little consolation that their freedoms will only be interrupted for a ‘while.’

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